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The Justice Department reported last Thursday that 12 percent of incarcerated juveniles, or more than 3,200 young people, had been raped or sexually abused in the past year by fellow inmates or prison staff. This is startling information that puts numbers to the problem that has been quietly talked about for years.

The numbers equate to one out of every three youths at 13 juvenile detention facilities having reported some type of sexual victimization. These findings are more than seven times higher than those indicated by a 2008 Justice Department study and were higher than a similar study of adult prisons.

Facilities in Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina and Texas were identified as the worst with more than 30% of youths reported they had been sexually victimized. The findings "bring into focus the dire circumstances that too many youth in juvenile correctional facilities have to endure," said a Justice Department statement issued with the report

In any case with a juvenile, there are questions of what level of responsibility and punishment should be imparted. There is much more hope that rehabilitation may make a difference. Looking at the higher rates, juvenile prisoners vs adults, those same age questions make them vulnerable to staff sexual misconduct. Members of the Obama administration have been working to on reforms to reduce rape in U.S. prisons. hopefully, this study will quicken that response.

The study was based on a survey that was conducted from June 2008 through April 2009 and asked whether the young inmates had been abused in the previous year of detention.

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